Cilka’s Journey by Heather Morris

I really enjoyed The Tattooist of Auschwitz (though I am aware of all the criticism it received for being unbelievable), and I was excited to find Ms. Morris’ next novel, Cilka’s Journey on Net Galley. Cilka is a character from Tatooist and the story tells what happens to her after the war.

First I must say that I struggled with the first third of this book. I found it so violent and disturbing that I feared I might not be able to continue reading as I was having nightmares, but I figured that this was someone’s story and they didn’t have the option to “stop reading” so I should stick with it. Luckily for me, things became less graphic and I got really into the plot and characters. Cilka was an amazingly strong young woman, but I was left with such a sense of sorrow – as I often am when I read stories of the Holocaust – that her young life was upended and forever changed by the atrocities of war. I also had no idea that those who “collaborated” with the Nazis in the camps (though some had no choice) by being in charge of their bunks, being forced to have sex with guards, etc. were sent to labor camps after the war.

Recommended to those who enjoyed the first story (though this is a stand alone) and stories of the Holocaust.

Here’s the overview:

Description

From the author of the multi-million copy bestseller The Tattooist of Auschwitz comes a new novel based on a riveting true story of love and resilience.

Her beauty saved her — and condemned her.

Cilka is just sixteen years old when she is taken to Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration Camp in 1942, where the commandant immediately notices how beautiful she is. Forcibly separated from the other women prisoners, Cilka learns quickly that power, even unwillingly taken, equals survival.

When the war is over and the camp is liberated, freedom is not granted to Cilka: She is charged as a collaborator for sleeping with the enemy and sent to a Siberian prison camp. But did she really have a choice? And where do the lines of morality lie for Cilka, who was send to Auschwitz when she was still a child?

In Siberia, Cilka faces challenges both new and horribly familiar, including the unwanted attention of the guards. But when she meets a kind female doctor, Cilka is taken under her wing and begins to tend to the ill in the camp, struggling to care for them under brutal conditions.

Confronting death and terror daily, Cilka discovers a strength she never knew she had. And when she begins to tentatively form bonds and relationships in this harsh, new reality, Cilka finds that despite everything that has happened to her, there is room in her heart for love.

From child to woman, from woman to healer, Cilka’s journey illuminates the resilience of the human spirit—and the will we have to survive.

HFVBTours: Feature of Farewell My Life by Cynthia Haggard

Today I’m blasting it up for Historical Fiction’s Virtual Book Tours with FAREWELL MY LIFE by Cynthia Haggard.

(FYI – this book contains adult themes and would be rated “R”. I have not personally read it).

Farewell My Life by Cynthia Haggard
Publication Date: October 29, 2019eBook & Paperback; 586 pages
Genre: Historical Fiction
Angelina led a life which required her to fib. When Angelina, the black sheep of the Pagano family, meets the mysterious Mr. Russell, she has no idea that she has seen him before…in another country. And so begins Farewell My Life, a novel in three parts, which spins an operatic tale of dangerous love and loss.
The Lost Mother, the first part of this novel, slices back and forth between time and space, opening in the charming village of Georgetown, Washington D.C. while reflecting a family’s troubled past in the lovely village of Marostica in the Italian Veneto.
An Unsuitable Suitor, the second part of the novel, is a Cinderella-ish tale with not-so-charming princes who inhabit the edgy setting of 1920s Berlin.
Farewell My Life, the last part of the novel, set again in Berlin, Germany, during the dark 1930s as the Nazis gain power, takes comfortable lives, assumptions and civilizations and crumbles them into ash.

About the Author
Cynthia graduated with an MFA in Creative Writing from Lesley University, Cambridge MA, in June 2015.
Her first novel, Thwarted Queen, a frustrating tale (hence the title) of Lady Cecylee Neville (1415-1495) who was nearly crowned Queen of England, was shortlisted for many awards, including the 2012 Eric Hoffer New Horizon Award for debut authors. To date, sales have surpassed 38,000 copies.
Her forthcoming novel, Farewell My Life, is a Cinderella-ish tale with not-so-charming princes who inhabit the edgy setting of 1920s Berlin.
When she’s not annoying everyone by insisting her fictional characters are more real than they are, Cynthia likes to go for long walks, knit something glamorous, cook in her wonderful kitchen, and play the piano. 

The Winemaker’s Wife by Kristin Harmel

Wine? WWII? Resistance activities? Count me in! I really enjoyed this novel about a young woman who spent her post-war years trying to amend for her actions during the war. Don’t want to give it all away – no spoilers here!

I had enjoyed Kristin Harmel’s earlier novels, so I chose this one through Net Galley. I love reading of this era and am always amazed at the tenacity of the people who lived through such hardship. This was part love story and – to be honest – that was the one part I didn’t really enjoy. I particularly did not like the character of Celine’s husband and found him very one dimensional.

Overall, this was a great read and one I would recommend to folks who enjoy this genre.

Thank you for my review copy!

Description

Instant #1 bestsellerfrom The Globe and Mail (Toronto) and The Toronto Star

“Love and betrayal, forgiveness and redemption combine in a heady tale of the ever-present past…fantastic!” —Pam Jenoff, New York Times bestselling author of The Lost Girls of Paris

The author of the “engrossing” (People) international bestseller The Room on Rue Amélie returns with a moving story set amid the champagne vineyards of northern France during the darkest days of World War II, perfect for fans of Kristin Hannah’s The Nightingale.

Champagne, 1940: Inès has just married Michel, the owner of storied champagne house Maison Chauveau, when the Germans invade. As the danger mounts, Michel turns his back on his marriage to begin hiding munitions for the Résistance. Inès fears they’ll be exposed, but for Céline, half-Jewish wife of Chauveau’s chef de cave, the risk is even greater—rumors abound of Jews being shipped east to an unspeakable fate.

When Céline recklessly follows her heart in one desperate bid for happiness, and Inès makes a dangerous mistake with a Nazi collaborator, they risk the lives of those they love—and the champagne house that ties them together.

New York, 2019: Liv Kent has just lost everything when her eccentric French grandmother shows up unannounced, insisting on a trip to France. But the older woman has an ulterior motive—and a tragic, decades-old story to share. When past and present finally collide, Liv finds herself on a road to salvation that leads right to the caves of the Maison Chauveau.

The Room on Rue Amelie by Kristin Harmel

I am currently reading Kristin Harmel’s newest book and I was reminded that I had not finished this novel from last year! This is a wonderful WWII story about a young American woman who marries a French man and stays in Paris during the Nazi occupation. Their lives are intertwined with the Jewish family next door, and Ruby must decide if she will risk all she has in order to do what she knows is right for those she cares about.

Highly recommended! Thank you for my copy to review through Net Galley!

Description

For fans of Kristin Hannah’s The Nightingale and Martha Hall Kelly’s Lilac Girls, this powerful novel of fate, resistance, and family—by the international bestselling author of The Sweetness of Forgetting and When We Meet Again—tells the tale of an American woman, a British RAF pilot, and a young Jewish teenager whose lives intersect in occupied Paris during the tumultuous days of World War II.

When newlywed Ruby Henderson Benoit arrives in Paris in 1939 with her French husband Marcel, she imagines strolling arm in arm along the grand boulevards, awash in the golden afternoon light. But war is looming on the horizon, and as France falls to the Nazis, her marriage begins to splinter, too.

Charlotte Dacher is eleven when the Germans roll into the French capital, their sinister swastika flags snapping in the breeze. After the Jewish restrictions take effect and Jews are ordered to wear the yellow star, Charlotte can’t imagine things getting much worse. But then the mass deportations begin, and her life is ripped forever apart.

Thomas Clarke joins the British Royal Air Force to protect his country, but when his beloved mother dies in a German bombing during the waning days of the Blitz, he wonders if he’s really making a difference. Then he finds himself in Paris, in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower, and he discovers a new reason to keep fighting—and an unexpected road home.

When fate brings them together, Ruby, Charlotte, and Thomas must summon the courage to defy the Nazis—and to open their own broken hearts—as they fight to survive. Rich with historical drama and emotional depth, this is an unforgettable story that will stay with you long after the final page is turned.

Mistress of the Ritz by Melanie Benjamin

I love Melanie Benjamin’s writing (The Aviator’s Wife, The Swans of Fifth Avenue, The Girls in the Picture – to name a few). She makes historical characters come alive and her attention to historical is spot on. She also never makes anachronistic slips in her writing. Mistress of the Ritz is based on the real person, Blanche Auzello, and her husband Claude who was the manager of the Ritz during the German occupation of Paris in WWII. Blanche is a vibrant and unforgettable character, as daring as she is brave, even as she hides a secret. Apparently, there is not too much known of the personal lives of the real Claude and Blanche, but Ms. Benjamin’s writing never feels campy or too incredible. Instead she does what she does best — slowly peeling away the layers of character so that by the end of the book we feel we know the person intimately.

This was an interesting and great read.

Thank you for my e-copy to review via Net Galley!

Description

A captivating novel based on the story of the extraordinary real-life American woman who secretly worked for the French Resistance during World War II—while playing hostess to the invading Germans at the iconic Hôtel Ritz in Paris—from the New York Times bestselling author of The Aviator’s Wife and The Swans of Fifth Avenue.

“A compelling portrait of a marriage and a nation at war from within.”—Kate Quinn, author of The Alice Network

Nothing bad can happen at the Ritz; inside its gilded walls every woman looks beautiful, every man appears witty. Favored guests like Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Coco Chanel, and the Duke and Duchess of Windsor walk through its famous doors to be welcomed and pampered by Blanche Auzello and her husband, Claude, the hotel’s director. The Auzellos are the mistress and master of the Ritz, allowing the glamour and glitz to take their minds off their troubled marriage, and off the secrets that they keep from their guests—and each other.

Until June 1940, when the German army sweeps into Paris, setting up headquarters at the Ritz. Suddenly, with the likes of Hermann Goëring moving into suites once occupied by royalty, Blanche and Claude must navigate a terrifying new reality. One that entails even more secrets and lies. One that may destroy the tempestuous marriage between this beautiful, reckless American and her very proper Frenchman. For in order to survive—and strike a blow against their Nazi “guests”—Blanche and Claude must spin a web of deceit that ensnares everything and everyone they cherish.

But one secret is shared between Blanche and Claude alone—the secret that, in the end, threatens to imperil both of their lives, and to bring down the legendary Ritz itself.

Based on true events, Mistress of the Ritz is a taut tale of suspense wrapped up in a love story for the ages, the inspiring story of a woman and a man who discover the best in each other amid the turbulence of war.

Advance praise for Mistress of the Ritz

“No one writes of the complexities of women’s lives and loves like Melanie Benjamin. In Mistress of the Ritz, Benjamin brings wartime Paris brilliantly to life. . . . Intense, illuminating, and ultimately inspiring!”—Elizabeth Letts, New York Times bestselling author of Finding Dorothy

Me again — having read this, I wondered about the real Paris Ritz as I’ve never seen it. Here’s a link to google images of it – oo la la!

Some google images of the Ritz in Paris

The Daughter’s Tale by Armando Lucas Correa

I was thrilled to be offered this title via Net Galley since I had read and reviewed The German Girl a while back in 2016 (see review here: https://drbethnolan.com/2016/11/03/the-german-girl-by-armando-lucas-correa/). It was yet another story that was based in fact and unforgettable. Again, the ability of Jewish families to get passage to other countries where they will be safe is featured, and it is so disturbing to see how not many countries were helpful. I felt for the main character in this novel, Amanda, as she had so much loss. And yet, her story is most probably not too different from many women of that time and place.

Recommended for those who enjoy reading of WWII and of normal people who are forced to face extraordinary things. This novel has been called “heartbreaking” – and it is.

Thank you for my review copy.

Description

The Daughter’s Tale is immersive, both heartbreaking and redemptive, steeped in harrowing historical events and heroic acts of compassion that will have you reflecting on the best and worst the human heart has to offer. Fans of WWII history and book clubs will find depth and skillful storytelling here, but on a deeper level, searing questions about life, love, and the choices we make in the most impossible of circumstances.” —Lisa Wingate, New York Times bestselling author of Before We Were Yours

From the internationally bestselling author of The German Girl, an unforgettable family saga exploring a hidden piece of World War II history and the lengths a mother will go to protect her children—perfect for fans of Lilac GirlsWe Were the Lucky Ones, and The Alice Network.

BERLIN, 1939. The dreams that Amanda Sternberg and her husband, Julius, had for their daughters are shattered when the Nazis descend on Berlin, burning down their beloved family bookshop and sending Julius to a concentration camp. Desperate to save her children, Amanda flees toward the south of France, where the widow of an old friend of her husband’s has agreed to take her in. Along the way, a refugee ship headed for Cuba offers another chance at escape and there, at the dock, Amanda is forced to make an impossible choice that will haunt her for the rest of her life. Once in Haute-Vienne, her brief respite is inter­rupted by the arrival of Nazi forces, and Amanda finds herself in a labor camp where she must once again make a heroic sacrifice.

NEW YORK, 2015. Eighty-year-old Elise Duval receives a call from a woman bearing messages from a time and country that she forced herself to forget. A French Catholic who arrived in New York after World War II, Elise is shocked to discover that the letters were from her mother, written in German during the war. Despite Elise’s best efforts to stave off her past, seven decades of secrets begin to unravel.

Based on true events, The Daughter’s Tale chronicles one of the most harrowing atrocities perpetrated by the Nazis during the war. Heart­breaking and immersive, it is a beautifully crafted family saga of love, survival, and redemption.

The Lost Girls of Paris by Pam Jenoff

I bought this title as a present for myself because I had heard about it online (and it was already past Pub Day!). If you know me, you know I love WWII stories, and this one was so interesting and intriguing. It focused on a group of female spies in Europe during the war and their activities. It was based on true accounts.

Here’s the overview from Amazon:

1946, Manhattan

One morning while passing through Grand Central Terminal on her way to work, Grace Healey finds an abandoned suitcase tucked beneath a bench. Unable to resist her own curiosity, Grace opens the suitcase, where she discovers a dozen photographs—each of a different woman. In a moment of impulse, Grace takes the photographs and quickly leaves the station.

Grace soon learns that the suitcase belonged to a woman named Eleanor Trigg, leader of a network of female secret agents who were deployed out of London during the war. Twelve of these women were sent to Occupied Europe as couriers and radio operators to aid the resistance, but they never returned home, their fates a mystery. Setting out to learn the truth behind the women in the photographs, Grace finds herself drawn to a young mother turned agent named Marie, whose daring mission overseas reveals a remarkable story of friendship, valor and betrayal.

Vividly rendered and inspired by true events, New York Times bestselling author Pam Jenoff shines a light on the incredible heroics of the brave women of the war and weaves a mesmerizing tale of courage, sisterhood and the great strength of women to survive in the hardest of circumstances.

Highly recommended for those who like stories from this era!